Mexican police will be trained and equipped by counterparts in U.S. law enforcement as part of an expansion in the war against transnational drug cartels, federal officials said.

The focus will be on better preparing Mexican police officers at the state and local levels.

William Brownfield, who is the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said Wednesday that the latest step in the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative will allow sheriff's deputies from Webb County, Texas, to travel to Mexico or Central American countries to train law enforcement peers.

The agreement is a first for a local law enforcement agency on the U.S.-Mexico border. The Merida Initiative was launched in 2008.

Brownfield says it's clear that local forces face the most concentrated violence in the ongoing battle with cartels, especially in northern Mexico, and also are in the most need of training.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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